Many police vehicles are now equipped with dashboard cameras, often referred to as MVRs (mobile video recorders). These cameras can capture a wide variety of information and evidence crucial to not only the prosecution of DWI charges but also DWI defenses. Recently, New Jersey courts have made this footage more accessible to those involved in DWI proceedings and the public at large.
New Jersey Law
While MVR footage has always been relevant to DWI proceeding, it has not always been a simple process to obtain copies of police footage. Historically, defendants faced roadblocks in receiving this evidence and were sometimes refused copies by police departments and prosecutors. Recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division took up the issue and made dashboard camera footage more accessible. In June of 2016, the court ruled in Paff v. Ocean Cnty. Prosecutor’s Office such footage is a part of the public record.
This ruling makes it much easier for DWI defendants to access their footage and use the information it contains to defend against their charges. However, the law may not be all beneficial. With the ruling that these recordings are part of the public record, it is also much easier for those not involved in the DWI proceedings to access the footage. As a general rule, evidence that is considered part of the public record is accessible by the public. This ease of access has a wide variety of privacy concerns for those caught on tape.
MVR tapes begin at the very beginning of a DWI confrontation, usually when the officer suspects that a driver may be drunk. The footage only stops after the encounter has concluded, either with the driver being taken into custody or released.
This means that MVR footage will contain any field sobriety tests completed by the driver. In fact, New Jersey police officers are instructed to make any necessary adjustments to the camera to ensure that the field sobriety test is captured on tape. If that footage is available to the public, it could be embarrassing for the driver and if it is released before a trial, it could even affect the ability of the jury to rule fairly.
In discussing police footage, the courts have overruled objections to releasing the footage based on privacy concerns. Specifically, New Jersey courts have stated that drivers and passengers on public roadways do not have a right to privacy in recordings taken by MVRs. It seems that drivers have little recourse under New Jersey law to prevent release of MVR footage they appear in.
Call 732-238-8686 today for more information.
If you have been charged with a DWI, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Call David C. Barry, Attorney at Law at 732-238-8686 today to schedule your consultation.